Rowntree's delight tempered by Munster's failure to reach bonus territory

Munster finally got the new head coach's era up and running with a first victory on Saturday as they dispatched Zebre Parma in Cork in round three of the URC
Rowntree's delight tempered by Munster's failure to reach bonus territory

DOUBLING UP: Niall Scannell of Munster on his way to scoring his side's third try during the United Rugby Championship match between Munster and Zebre Parma at Musgrave Park in Cork. Pic: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

MUNSTER 21 ZEBRE PARMA 5 

Graham Rowntree’s delight with a first win as Munster head coach was tempered by his side’s failure to grab a four-try bonus point despite dominating Zebre Parma in Cork on Saturday.

Returning home for the first time this season following back-to-back BKT United Rugby Championship defeats in Wales to Cardiff and then last Sunday at Dragons, the new head coach had asked for a positive reaction from the squad following two sloppy performances. Peter O’Mahony’s side delivered victory in front of 6,485 supporters at Musgrave Park.

A first-half double from hooker Niall Scannell, both from a dominant lineout maul, and a close-range try from his front-row partner Keynan Knox, all converted by Ben Healy gave Munster a 21-0 half-time lead. However the Reds failed to add a fourth try in a second half they lost 5-0 following Lorenzo Pani’s 45th minute try. All of which suggests these are still very early days for the new coaching ticket of Rowntree, attack coach Mike Prendergast, defence coach Denis Leamy and forwards coach Andi Kyriacou.

“Delighted with the win, after the week we've had,” Rowntree said. “Delighted with the win but I'd love to have come away with a bonus point. We'll look at what we can do better in the second half in terms of ball retention. Our ambition is good, but we've got to look after the ball.” 

The win, he added, was “important for momentum” heading into a four-game block that will see Munster visit Connacht on Friday, welcome the Bulls to Limerick the following week and then travel to Dublin to face Leinster in the Aviva Stadium before rounding out October with a home derby against Ulster.

“It's been a tough, short week, but a tough week on many fronts," Rowntree insisted. "We needed the win, and needed to show elements of the game we've been working on exceptionally hard. I was just disappointed with the consistency of our ball retention.

Despite leaking an early second-half try, Munster had retained control of the contest but were once again sloppy in possession and rarely able to move past four or five phases. Nor was Munster’s ambition helped by a stop-start game littered with lengthy injury delays, reset scrums and extended discussions between referee AJ Jacobs and his TMO.

“It was frustrating, but you've got to crack on,” Rowntree said. “We showed some good game control, our set-piece was in good nick, our maul in particular, and the second half became fractured, stop-start, injuries, and was littered with our own errors, our own controllable errors.

“I wanted more from that second half, more points. I wanted more from our territory and possession in midfield, we needed more points.”

MUNSTER: M Haley; C Phillips, M Fekitoa, D Goggin (R Scannell, 60), P Campbell; B Healy (J Carbery, 50), C Casey (C Murray, 50); D Kilcoyne (J Loughman, 50), N Scannell (S Buckley, 50), K Knox (S Archer, 45); F Wycherley (E Edogbo, 57), T Beirne; J O’Donoghue, P O’Mahony - captain, Jack O’Sullivan (R Quinn, 73).

ZEBRE PARMA: R Kriel; P Bruno, E Cronjé (F Smith Jr, 12; N Casilio, 37 - HIA), E Lucchin – captain (L Pani, 30), J Trulla; T Eden, A Fusco; J Pitinari (L Rizzoli, 53), G Ribaldi (L Bigi, h-t), I Neculai (M Nocera, 53); G Venditti, L Krumov; D Ruggeri, MJ Pelser (I Bianchi, h-t), T Fox-Matamua (J Furno, 59).

Yellow card: G Venditti 24-34. 

Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa).

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